Eirianware led me to the southern edge of the village. The battlefield, still a mess of mud and frozen slush, spread across the gully between the village and the southern-most fields, which were occupied by Irvaine’s camp. The banners of Rathenridge and Landry flapped in the wind beneath Irvaine’s emblem of a golden hart on a field of green.
The king’s camp lay sprawled across the eastern-most fields. A great flag on a pole twice the height of a man marked the edge of the camp. A hawk, wings unfurled and claws spread, shown red on a field of caramel brown. Gilt highlighted the bird’s claws and crazed eyes. The sight of the banner was enough to slow my steps.
“Where am I to present myself?” I asked Eirianware.
“Outside the king’s pavilion. I was told we would be met at the edge of camp.”
As he spoke, I spotted a group of men lingering beneath the crimson bird. As we approached, they fell into formation, a tall but unassuming man at their head. He was the man who stepped forward to greet us.
“Lady Irvaine, I presume.” He bowed with the practiced air of a man who performed the movement often. As he straightened, we locked eyes.
“Lord Dentin, I presume.”
“Why do you assume I am he?”
“You have the look of a man more accustomed to the background than the focus of attention. Also, you wear the colors of Dentin’s household.”
His eyebrows rose in what I hoped was appreciation. “Tomas said you were bright, but he didn’t mention observant.”
A burst of warmth flooded my chest. Still, I remained outwardly reserved. Tomas indicated Lord Dentin could be a valuable ally or a dangerous friend. Considering the complicated depths of my husband, I expected the same of his friends.
“I don’t know whether to be afraid or flattered.”
“Why?” He smiled, but his eyes narrowed.
“The king sent the man responsible for the security of the realm to escort me to my presentation. Does he think I intend to assassinate him?”
“You are armed.” His eyebrows rose and his eyes challenged me, but the corners of his mouth lifted slightly.
“It is intended to be for show. You may take it.” I offered the knife, but Dentin made no move to accept it.
“Keep it. Tomas sent me.”
I returned the dagger to its sheath. “Is he afraid I will assassinate the king?”
Dentin laughed. “Hardly. He thought you would need support, a conclusion I do not share.”
“So you are here as a friend?”
“In part.” He offered his left arm to me.
“The other part?” I laid my hand upon his forearm.
“Parts, my lady. First and foremost, I am a loyal subject of the king.” He led the way through the tent city. Our men fell into formation behind us like the train of a regal gown.
“I am as well.”
“So, treason does not run in the family?”
I tensed. “I am not my cousin, my lord. We are nothing alike.”
He turned to scan my face with a care. I met his scrutiny with a steady regard. His brown eyes were pleasantly shaped. He had even features, a strong jaw, well-proportioned nose, and a pleasing smile hidden behind the tension of the moment. I returned my gaze to his eyes. I had nothing to hide from this man.
“The king sent you, didn’t he?”
He focused straight ahead. “No, he didn’t, but I wouldn’t be much of a defender of the realm if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity allotted me.”
“So, you are searching for an assassin?”
Duty to King
Tomas Dyrease, the newly made Earl of Irvaine and the village of Wisenvale, owes his good fortune to his king and the recent civil war. When his benefactor demands Tomas marry the cousin of a noble, he obeys. However, no one warned him that she wasn’t a typical noblewoman.
Duty to Others
Brielle Solarius struggles to keep her village from starvation under the new Lord Wisten, her cousin. The men rode off to war and never returned. The remaining women and children face a dire winter if they do not find a solution soon. When she learns her cousin sold her into marriage to save his life, she isn’t surprised. However, she is taken aback by Lord Irvaine’s unpolished ways. Was this man a noble or a foot soldier?
Duty to Each Other
Bound by the words of their vows, they face a rough future. They must forge a marriage while battling betrayal, accusations of treason, and villains from the past. Survival depends on their precarious trust in each other. Failure could mean death.
Genre – Fantasy, Romance
Rating – G